Amtrak Ridership at “Record” Levels, More Subsidies Needed

News stories this week cited the fact that Amtrak ridership has risen significantly in recent months in response to high gas prices. In a free market, a record number of riders would mean record profits (or at least increased profits), but Amtrak is America’s state-owned, socialist rail system (government ownership of the means of production, in this case a railroad), so profits are not even a consideration. In fact, Illinois Senator Richard Durbin has used increased ridership to argue that more taxpayer dollars should be funneled into the rail system, in part to purchase more train cars.
As the story points out, however, rail advocates shouldn’t get too excited about the railroad’s so-called “success”: Even though Amtrak ridership last month increased 14 percent compared to July 2007, the railroad provides less than 1 percent of all trips made nationwide, as car and air travel reign. Air and rail rely far less on subsidies on a per passenger mile basis.
This one-percent is at a relatively high cost to taxpayers of more than $1 billion per year. The Southwest Chief, which runs through New Mexico is one of Amtrak’s most heavily-subsidized routes operating at a cost to taxpayers of $236 per passenger.